During his concession speech, following the 2015 presidential election, little did then President Goodluck Jonathan know, that his name was being engraved in gold, on the “Mount Rushmore” of exceptional global leaders.
Jonathan took the stage, as it were, and taught Nigeria and the world that you don’t have to be president to be presidential. In his concession statement, President Jonathan reset and redefined presidential leadership, courage, and commitment to democratic principles in Nigeria and indeed Africa, when he said, “I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word. I have also expanded the space for Nigerians to participate in the democratic process. That is one legacy I will like to see endure. As I have always affirmed, nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.” What a class act!
Jonathan’s unequivocal rejection of the urge to sit-tight as president, launched him like a phoenix onto the global arena, where he enjoys a wider and more receptive audience to share his other numerous major accomplishments as president – accomplishments that may have otherwise been emasculated by extending his stay in office.
It was, for instance under the Jonathan administration that Nigerian women attained the highest level of participation in the nation’s social, political and economic life. His gender equality policy resulted in an increase in women’s representation in government from 10% in 2011 to over 33% 2013, with the appointment of 13 female Ministers out of 42, representing 31% and 4 special advisers out of 18, representing 23%.
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President Jonathan walked his talk in education, which is another crucial sector in any economy especially a developing one in Africa. President Jonathan between 2007 and 2013, tripled education allocation from N224 billion to N634 billion, improved access to education by the construction of 125 Almajiri schools, and the establishment 14 additional federal universities. He also, rehabilitated 352 laboratories, not including laboratories in all the 51 federal and state polytechnics, and constructed 72 new libraries in the federal unity schools across the country.
Through key investments in agriculture, ICT, the automobile industry and non-oil sectors, Nigeria under his stewardship overtook South Africa as the largest economy in Africa and became the 26th in the world. Nigeria was again attractive to investors, hence, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD, named Nigeria as the No.1 destination for investments in Africa, for two consecutive years.
President Jonathan is a proponent of collaborative approach to solving problems. No sector was this more in full display than on the foreign affairs arena. His regular, persistent and purposeful interactions with Nigerians in the Diaspora created an enabling environment that increased remittances to Nigeria from $10 – $20 billion annually, during his tenure. His hard work, effective mobilization, and subsequent endorsement by regional groups, culminated in Nigeria being elected unopposed into the non-permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council in 2013.
Another major accomplishment of President Jonathan that will find receptive interests on his new global platform, is the deftness with which his administration managed and contained the Ebola crisis which engulfed other countries along the western coast of Africa. Through a well-coordinated emergency management strategy that treated those infected quickly, identified and monitored those in contact with the disease, as well as aggressive public awareness campaign about the risks and effects of Ebola, the disease was completely eradicated within weeks.
This feat earned President Jonathan the commendation of the United Nations, whose official special envoy, Mr. David Navarro said “The Secretary-General asked me to come here, not because you have an Ebola problem, but because you have tackled it in an exemplary fashion. Your personal leadership on the matter has been key. There may still be some work to be done before the virus is completely cleared out from here, but other countries can learn from your fine example.”
While President Jonathan administration’s policies touched people’s lives directly and indirectly, the increases in minimum wage, monthly stipends for the National Youth Service Corp members, the YouWin program and others changed lives significantly for the better.
President Jonathan continued quest to serve a wider humanity is off to a roaring start on a global stage, with his successful election monitoring assignment on behalf of the Commonwealth of Nations in Tanzania,, keynote presentation at the US based Center for Strategic and International Studies – the most powerful think-tank in the world, and the recent invitation to present the keynote address at the 2016 Hope Global Forums conference, in Atlanta, a role performed last by former United States President, Bill Clinton.
At a time when Nigeria’s image would have been defined by that of a bumbling angry persona, through providential intervention, Jonathan’s sunny spirit, accomplishments and personal narratives once again came to Nigeria’s rescue.
I must confess that it wasn’t until after President Jonathan left office, that I started to have a better appreciation of his challenges and accomplishments, and my admiration began to grow.
My major pet peeve, ab initio, was my perception, obviously shaped mostly by media spin by his opposition, that he was corrupt. My assessment changed when in late February 2015, Transparency International (TI), a non-governmental organization that monitors and publicizes corporate and political corruption in international development and known to be factual and unbiased, released its findings. The study which covered the period from 1979-2014, concluded that “contrary to widespread propaganda which has labeled the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan led administration as the most corrupt in the country’s history, a look at data’s from TI, has shown that both General Muhammadu Buhari and Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure were more corrupt.”
I therefore wish to express my warmest congratulations to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the Editorial Board of The Trent names him Person of the Year 2015 for deepening our democratic values for which so many have sacrificed so much to uphold, instituting enabling policies that guaranteed freedom of speech, and expression, and his key landmark people centric accomplishments.
President Jonathan embodies our humanity, I urge him not to relent, or be distracted, but to continue to soar like and eagle.
Edward Oparaoji is a professor of pharmacy and chairman, Nigerian-American Leadership Council, a Washington DC Based think-tank. He is a member of the Editorial Board of The Trent, one of the most influential online newspapers in Nigeria. Connect with him on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.